To Change the Culture you have to Change the Conversation

Look at any mission statement and you see a lot of heady words like integrity, compassion, trustworthiness, and commitment, especially if the mission is from a Non-Profit or Healthcare organization. Ask the employees to repeat the mission and they are lost in the woods. For one thing, the mission statement is way too long. Fair enough. But ask the employee to just offer one word that encompasses what the organization stands for and they just can’t do it.

For example, I have worked with many healthcare organizations where the key word is either mercy or compassion. When I ask executives how often those words come up in conversation they say “never.”


  • Results are not based on offering compassion.
  • Behaviors are not monitored to align with compassion.
  • Compassion is not defined or measured.
  • Meetings are not conducted where compassion is discussed
  • Examples and stories of compassion are not shared

Whether the value-based word is integrity, compassion, or commitment, if that word is not circling around in the conversation at work, you will see misalignment. Or if the word has been over-used and watered down it becomes the flavor of the month. Ultimately, it’s up to the executive leadership team to initiate strategic conversations that align with the values of the organization.

Employees have to know the definition of the word, the various ways that value-based word is embodied, the various “shades” or spectrum of the value, and they have to be acknowledged when they exhibit evidence of embodying the value.

An Exercise to Try: Look at the statements below and change the bold word to match the value-based word you want to incorporate into your culture.

  • What does it look like when mercy is offered?
  • How are we rewarded or acknowledged when we exhibit integrity?
  • How do we identify acts that are the opposite of trustworthiness?
  • When do we know we are heading in the direction of commitment?
  • What is the opposite of compassion?
  • Is care also compassion or just on the spectrum?
The Bottom Line: If it’s not in the conversation it’s not in the culture.
For a copy of Marlene’s complete Manifesto, click here!

Marlene Chism is a consultant, international speaker and the author of “Stop Workplace Drama” (Wiley 2011) and the author of “No-Drama Leadership (Bibliomotion 2015). Visit her website, and connect via LinkedInFacebook and Twitter.